Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday asserted that India should not wait for a crisis for economic reforms, as she laid out the government’s policies in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It doesn’t take a crisis to reform, nor should a crisis be allowed to overwhelm India," she wrote in an English daily, while accusing the Congress government of lacking the political will to transform India into a developed nation.
Crediting former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao for undertaking critical reforms, Sitharaman said it was the first NDA government (1999-2004) under Atal Bihari Vajpayee that took the reforms forward, while the Congress under Manmohan Singh lacked the political will.
“India had made commitments in 1991 on fiscal consolidation, as a part of those quarterly benchmarks to be fulfilled. However, it was PM Vajpayee who enacted the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management law. Another promise left unfulfilled was the rationalisation of state excise rates. In 1999, PM Vajpayee cleared the idea of a single goods and services tax. However, it was in 2017 under PM Narendra Modi that the Goods and Services Act came into force."
The Union Finance Minister also highlighted the Centre's major public welfare schemes. "The PM Jan Dhan Yojana launched in 2014 has provided over 39 crore poor people access to banks and their services. Together they have over Rs 1.32 lakh crore in these accounts. Over 10 crore farmers are beneficiaries of PM Kisan Yojana, which directly transfers monies into their accounts," she wrote.
"Equally, market access was critical to multiplying farmers’ income," she added.
Referring to the recent decision taken by the Centre for farmers, she wrote, "Farmers shall no longer be compelled to sell only to licensees within their areas. Using the electronic National Agriculture Market he can seek the place and price for his product to be sold. The recent steps to energise agriculture have resulted in amending the Essential Commodities Act. Together with changes in land leasing and terms of farming, agriculture is seeing major reforms. Incidentally, removal of administrative export controls on agricultural commodities remains an unfulfilled commitment of 1991."
She also wrote about how the Prime Minister invited private players to be co-travellers in the Indian space sector. "Also, to strengthen existing indigenous capacities in defence production he has invited greater investment in the sector. Reforms have continued even as the necessary stimulus is being provided for restarting the Covid-hit economy. Reforms are sustained, deep and pronounced under PM Modi," she added.